Not a day goes by that I don’t hear some form of this question from patients: “Which supplements should I really be taking?” With so much conflicting information about supplements in the news and online, it’s no wonder people are confused. And, at the risk of confusing you even further, you should know that I never recommend “supplements”; however, I do recommend supplementing with nutraceuticals. What are nutraceuticals? Glad you asked. Nutraceuticals is a broad umbrella term used to describe a potent medical-grade product derived from food sources with health benefits in addition to the basic nutritional value found in foods.
As an expert in functional nutrition and hormonal health, I emphasize that a nutrient-rich diet is the foundation of overall wellness. Furthermore, I know that when your hormones are properly balanced, the rest of your body runs smoothly. So, how can you optimize your nutrition and your hormonal health at the same time? You must first and foremost eat a nourishing diet. But, it’s not that simple – I wish it were. Although eating a micronutrient-rich diet of foods is the ideal, supplementing with medical-grade nutraceuticals is the reality for long-term hormonal health and well-being. Keeping your hormones happy will also enhance your healthspan and longevity.
How do I get started on the path to hormonal happiness?
Before you begin any nutraceutical regimen, you’ll want to have blood work done to see where you stand. Your doctor should run a full metabolic panel, along with an assessment of micronutrients to determine if you have any deficiencies. Honestly, I’d be surprised if you didn’t. I have never seen a patient with pristine labs. Almost all Americans are deficient in the essential nutrients required for optimal hormone function. Hormonal imbalances cause physical and psychological symptoms. Many times, they are misdiagnosed or simply ignored. Current clinical research and literature has redefined optimal levels of all sorts of nutrients which conflict with the ranges reported by most labs.
Why should you care? You can’t treat what you don’t know.
Why should I care about hormone balance?
Statistics reveal about 80% of women suffer from some kind of hormonal imbalance during their lifetime, which manifest as physical and mental health challenges due to low estrogen and progesterone levels – the female sex hormones. Most women think that testosterone is exclusively a male hormone. They are dead wrong. Testosterone in women maintains lean muscle mass, protects the brain from dementia, lowers the risk of heart disease, and builds far better bones than estrogen. However, hormonal imbalance is hardly a woman’s issue. Men are equally susceptible to a range of hormonal imbalances caused by testosterone that is too low or inadequate estrogen. In men, estrogen is protective against heart disease and stroke and protects the brain against Alzheimer’s. However, sex hormones are not the only chemical culprits in this story.
Most of us associate hormones primarily with sex. But, we’re really not giving these chemical messengers enough credit. Hormones are more multi-faceted and more complex than that. Your hormones determine how well you respond to stress, how well you sleep, what kind of mood you’re in, and how your thyroid functions. The endocrine system is responsible for the production and regulation of all the hormones in your body. If one or more is even slightly imbalanced, it can cause widespread major health problems.
What causes hormonal imbalances?
Hormonal issues typically occur when the endocrine system produces too much or too little of certain hormones. As a result, the body becomes less efficient at processing dietary nutrients, such as protein or vitamins. This malfunction triggers a chain reaction, leading to serious conditions like diabetes, ovarian dysfunction, hypothyroidism, cardiovascular disease, and loss of libido. These conditions occur in men and in women and at any life stage. As far I’m concerned, the decline or loss of sexual desire is as significant as major disease when it comes to our longevity and quality of life.
Each of these health conditions has a variety of causes, from genetics to poor eating, and stress. Sleep deprivation, for example, lowers testosterone and raises cortisol levels – one of the stress hormones. Chemicals or toxins in foods and the environment can disrupt your hormones. Other possible causes of hormonal disorders include obesity, menopause, and pregnancy. There’s no such thing as low testosterone in the absence of hypothyroidism – many men can even reverse low-T by taking thyroid hormone. Even though you may not have full control over these factors, you can prevent and manage hormonal imbalances. Simple lifestyle changes, such as eating whole foods, getting better quality sleep, and incorporating movement into your day can all contribute to hormonal balance. But, for many, such modifications are not enough.
Nutritional support for optimal hormonal health
In my practice, I encourage all of my patients to optimize their hormones for longevity as well as to improve their quality of life. This means evaluating and treating any thyroid dysfunction and hormonal imbalances. To optimize testosterone and estrogen levels, I employ bioidentical hormone replacement with pellet therapy. And, for thyroid problems, I prescribe thyroid hormone. However, for these interventions to succeed, patients need nutritional support and should supplement with medical-grade nutraceuticals. Hormones always need co-factors to work. Typically, these are vitamins and minerals that help hormones achieve their maximal effects in the cell.
7 Supplements your hormones can’t live without:
I’m going to assume that most of you take a medical-grade multivitamin with your breakfast or dinner. If you don’t, you should. But, you’re going to need more than a multi to keep your endocrine system firing on all cylinders. If you could only make 7 changes to your diet via supplementation for your hormones to function optimally, here’s where I would begin:
- Vitamin D: In many ways, D behaves more like a hormone than a vitamin. Your D-level is the number 1 indicator of morbidity (disease) and mortality (death). D supports thyroid function and weight-control. And the nutrient is vital to the prevention of clinical depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
- Iodine: For thyroid support, take Iodine. You need Iodine to produce your thyroid hormone and it is also decreases disease in all reproductive tissue – for men and women. In addition, Iodine detoxes you at the cellular level.
- Probiotics: You probably know that probiotics are great for your gut health. A healthy microbiome is critical for the absorption of nutrients in your food as well as your nutraceuticals. What you may not know is that a healthy gut makes serotonin, your feel-good hormone, and that probiotics are protective of neurologic tissue. A healthy gut means a healthy brain.
- DIM: Diindolylmethane restores your hormone levels in more than one way. First, it alters the production of harmful estrogen metabolytes. Second, it is the most potent anti-inflammatory available, reducing plaque formation that causes cardiovascular diseases. This compound has been proven to promote hypertrophy, or muscle-building, as well as fat loss by suppressing estrogen production. Moreover, it boosts your energy and stamina, increases libido, and lifts your mood.
- B-Complex: People with B vitamin deficiencies frequently experience depression, anxiety, and mood swings. B vitamins are essential for the nervous system to work properly and, during pregnancy, they prevent brain and spine defects in the fetus. Further, B vitamins promote healthy metabolism and reduce the risk of stroke.
- Ashwagandha: This herbal supplement benefits your adrenals as well as your thyroid function because it promotes the scavenging of free radicals that cause cellular damage. Ashwagandha can be used to support a sluggish or overactive thyroid and can also help overcome adrenal fatigue. Your adrenals can become overtaxed when you experience too much emotional, physical, or mental stress, leading to the disruption of hormones like adrenaline, cortisol, and progesterone. Ashwagandha helps you respond better to such stressors.
- Omegas: Omegas make it easier for hormones to reach their destination while also repairing hormone receptor sites. For your heart and brain to function at their best, Omegas are essential.
Once your hormones are in balance, you’ll find it easier to maintain your weight, your skin will look younger, your energy will go up, and you’ll enjoy a more restful sleep. The icing on the cake? Your sex drive and satisfaction will soar and success in your relationships and in life will follow suit.